Aluminum Rubik's Cube

May 2016   Bianchini-Love

This is a long term project primarily for learning purposes and a novel product. I admire design and art, so this build can be considered an art project depending on the way you look at it. I'm working on this project with Elizabeth Bianchini as my machining skills can easily use the help of an actual mechanical engineer. The goal is to create an Rubik's cubed machined out of aluminum that is the size of a standard Rubik's cube with 0.75" sub-cubes. Some adjustments are being made as the build progresses, so stay tuned for updates!

Design and conception

After spending the majority of January 2016 playing with Rubik's cubes with friends, by the time summer came around and new projects were on my mind, an aluminum Rubik's cube was something I really wanted to make.  It turns out that this has been done before, but I realized this after I was set on this project.  Something about the plastic Rubik's cubes appeal to me a lot - the solid colors, the rounded edges, and the spring-y action.  I wanted to preserve all of this while making this aluminum one.  Lu Laboratories (referenced above) was an excellent resource in gathering information pertaining to the dimensions and measurements, though some executive design decisions were made to accommodate our design and/or if we thought something would work better.

Over the summer, I modeled everything using Autodesk Inventor, choosing hardware that was readily available on McMaster-Carr.  As stated, I wanted to keep the overall look of the cube the same, but didn't want to use stickers as those tend to peel sooner than one would like.  I eventually settled on inserting a small square of 1/16" sheet aluminum into each outside face of each sub-cube of the cube.  The cool part about this is that the owner could theoretically replace these inserts (if they like unscrewing screws!) to give the cube a completely different aesthetic.  Possible ideas for inserts include anodized aluminum, powder coated aluminum (what I eventually settled on), wood, and even plastic, such as colored acrylic.

By the end of the summer, a CAD model existed of the cube, utilizing springs, screws, and materials that were feasible to obtain.